The difference in the play; Much Ado about Nothing
William Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado about Nothing” differs in many ways to MGM Studios adaptation to the text. With over 400 years separating the original play from the modern day film, there are many differences in characters, the setting, the costumes, and the dialogue. Many of the changes made in the adaptation were probably due to how much things have advanced in the last four centuries. Styles have changed. What can be expected and permitted in performances has changed. Film directors know that to captivate an audience now takes more than it would to attract an audience in the 1500’s. Props have also advanced. I intend to briefly talk about the differences I observed in the text version of the play and the movie.
When watching the film “Much Ado about Nothing” the first difference I noticed was the setting. The movie is set in the hills of Tuscany with a light-hearted tone. From reading the play, I understood the tone to be more formal. The whole society seemed concerned with physical appearance and the opinions of others. All darkness portrayed in the play was absent and gave way to a free-spirited atmosphere. The film begins with many of the main characters having a picnic in a meadow. The sun is shining and everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves. All the female characters are wearing white dresses and the men are wearing earthy tones. There is music playing that emphasizes the happy and carefree setting. It is impossible to get this from the text version of the play.
The next difference I observed was as Don Pedro and his men came into sight. Denzel Washington, an African American, plays the role of Don Pedro, the prince of Aragon. There never would have been a black man playing a role in a play during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. On the same note, all roles in Shakespearean times were played by males. Females did not perform in plays until later. Also as the men came into view, all the female characters run to bathe before seeing the men. This was strange because bathing during that time period was a rare occurrence. It would have been unusual for that many women to run and bathe at one time. Of course, modern films find it sometimes necessary to show some skin to keep the audience interested. This also provides adequate time to run the opening credits.
There are also signs of excitement at this point in the movie which were impossible to recognize in the text. Emotions are easier to read in the film than in the written play. The sensuality is visual in the film and verbal in the book.
The director of the 1993 film version of “Much Ado about Nothing”, Kenneth Branagh, had to cut out parts of the text version for various reasons. For instance, many lines, speeches, and even entire scenes such as Act II Scene 2 and Act III Scene 4 were cut out of the film version to fit the time frame appropriate for a modern day movie. Lines were eliminated that could be considered offensive:
“Benedick: If I do not lover her, I am a Jew.” (II.3.284-285)
Other lines were omitted because they would be hard to comprehend to a present-day audience:
“Don Pedro: My visor is Philemon’s roof; without in the house is Jove.” (II.1.100-101)
Lines that enhanced the formal tone in the text version of the play were also removed in order to avoid the negativity and keep the warm-hearted atmosphere.
Another thing I noticed that was different between the film and the written version of the play was how Claudio’s character is portrayed. After reading the text version I thought Claudio had a shady side. Something about him made me not completely trust him. He seemed to have an ulterior motive in his intentions with Hero:
“Claudio: Hath Leonato any son, my lord?” (I.1.304)
However, in the movie Claudio seemed very innocent. Robert Sean Leonard, the actor who plays Claudio, is a young actor whose face is focused on for expressive reactions. I think that Shakespeare portrayed Claudio a little differently than Branagh interpreted his character.
In conclusion, I would say that there were many advances in the worldwide theatre in the past four centuries. The source and the receiver have changed in style and disposition. Changes in props, settings, characters, wardrobe, dialogue, and receivers’ attitudes have led to the editing of a masterpiece of the 1500 and 1600’s to an updated popular comedy.